Werner Drewes (1899-1985). "Secret Spring," 1949, oil on canvas, 34 x 27, signed. Original ownership passed down through artist family.
Drewes was always more concerned with form as opposed to line. His deep interest in natural shapes and passion for archaeology fused. He painted neolithic Carnac in France, and his rendition of Maine's "Monhegan Cliffs" virtually puts them in a Tolkien mythic universe. We prefer his mid-to-late period works focused on nature and rendered in what some have called expressionistic figuralism. We see these works as the early modern reshaping of the landscape tradition. "Secret Spring," which we discussed with the artist's grand-daughter after our acquisition, shows how natural conflict arises from the water cycle and generates mythic forms in purple trees and green spathes and golden blossoms that emphasize nature's endless creative power. As Drewes asked in a 1936 exhibition catalogue: "What is the mystery underlying the Architecture of our Universe? What are the laws which create the pattern of the frost which forms on our windows? What causes the ... sunlight or the growth of a tree....To create new universes within these laws and to fill them with the experiences of our life is our task ....When they convincingly reflect the wisdom or struggle of the soul, a work of art is born."
Drewes, who pronounced his name Dray-wes, was born in Canig, Germany and served in WWI, which determined him to escape his father's Lutheran Ministry in favor of an artistic career, with early study in 1921 in classes with Paul Klee, and Oskar Schlemmer. Unsettled yet as an artist, in 1923 Drewes began several years of world travel, initially to Italy and Spain, where he studied Veronese, Tintoretto, Velazquez, and El Greco. After marrying Margaret Schrobsdorf, a German nurse working in Italy, he and his wife continued to travel throughout Latin America (he had exhibitions in Buenos Aires and Montevideo), the United States, the Orient, and finally, via the trans-Siberia railroad, through Manchuria, Moscow, and Warsaw, and back to Germany. In 1927 Drewes returned to the Bauhaus, which had moved from Weimar to Dessau and resumed his studies with Klee and Schlemmer. He attended Kandinsky's weekly painting classes and became close friends with Feininger, Moholy-Nagy, and Josef Albers. But he left the following year, seeing what the Nazi persecution of "degenerate art" would lead to. (Hitler closed the Bauhaus in 1933.) In 1930, Drewes settled in New York. Kandinsky provided an introduction to Katherine Dreier, an abstract artist and founder of the Societe Anonyme, which immediately began to include Drewes's work in the group's exhibitions. Drewes taught at Columbia University, worked on the design of the 1939 Worlds Fair building, and had shows at the Museum of Modern Art.